Thursday, September 20, 2007

When Radicals Take Over

Let me introduce myself: my name is Michael van der Galiën, founder and editor-in-chief of The Gazette, and American Studies student from the Netherlands. My girlfriend lives in Turkey, so I travel to that beautiful country regularly. I've also written several columns which were printed in Turkish Daily News. My own blog is, sadly, not reachable for people in Turkey: Wordpress - my server - has been blocked. I thank Hans for giving me the opportunity to write a post for this blog about this block.

As a blogger who spends a lot of time and attention to Turkish politics I was amazed, negatively surprised and worried a month ago when word came out that (a major blognetwork) had been blocked in Turkey. Turkish friends informed me that they could no longer reach my blog; they tried to reach other blogs as well, but it continued to give an error: a Turkish civil court had decided to block for all (decision no.: 2007/195).

A little time later, itself published an article explaining why they’re blocked in Turkey. It seems that one Adnan Oktar filed a complaint against because wordpress hosts some blogs that are critical of his works. Adnan Oktar is, of course, quite a well known figure in Turkey: he is a creationist who wrote a book dismissing darwinism. The title of this book is “Atlas of Creation.”

Seemingly, some people who have a blog don’t agree with Oktar’s creationist and Islamist views and regularly published articles criticizing him and his work. Oktar, who decided that no one should have the right to criticize him and to question his work went to court and a little while later the Turkish court had decided that one man’s right not to have his views questioned trumps the right of thousands of Turkish bloggers to exercise their freedom of speech.

There are two blogs who have spend a lot of time and attention to this blockade: AKP Watch and Istanbul Despatches. Both have tried to get people to organize to get the Turkish government so far as to undo the block. Sadly, however, their efforts haven’t accomplished all that much: everybody’s angry, but the Turkish government (and court) is conveniently ignoring the fact that tens of thousands of Turks suffer because of the idiocy of one lone man.

Istanbul Despatches, for instance, quotes from some of the e-mails Oktar’s lawyers sent to the owners of Wordpress. As ID’s owner Jim Colella points out, these layers and their e-mails “appear to go beyond the normal rhetoric of the legal world in justifying their actions on behalf of their client, not to mention being poorly worded in English.” Instead of trying to communicate with WordPress in a normal way, Oktar’s lawyers seem to resemble their client: they’re bullies. Instead of just attempting to get the blogs that attack Oktar blocked, they appear to be proud that they were able to get the court to block each and every blog.

Furthermore, although the lawyers charge that WordPress ignored warning the court issues, WordPress’ owners say that they have no idea what they’re talking about: they didn’t receive any warnings from any Turkish court they say. Suddenly, without them realizing it, was blocked. The lawyers themselves contacted the owners of WordPress, but every time they did, they did so in a threatening way, with no respect and instead of just sending one e-mail they “contacted us 17 times, that means that they would blast the same email to multiple address and when they didn’t get the reply they wanted they sent the same message over and over again.”

Bully tactics.

It’s a crying shame that the Turkish court has decided to do what Bully number One, Adnan Oktar, wanted it to do. The court should’ve told Oktar to shove it. By his work and publications he’s made himself a public figure – public figures are up for scrutiny and shouldn’t complain when people write ‘nasty’ things about them.

The silence from the Turkish government and Turkish media, meanwhile, is worrisome. Those who support the freedom of speech should be angry and passionate about this case. They should write about it as often as they can and they should put pressure on the government to de-block The AK Parti and its supporters say that they’re true Democrats, who support the freedom of speech, now is the time for them to stick by their words, and to put them into action.

Where’s the freedom-loving AK Parti now? Can it be that AK Parti leaders remain silent because Adnan Oktar is a reasonably popular figure among AK Parti members? AK Parti Watch writes in this regard: “Adnan Oktar and his infamous creationist nonsense is very populer among AK Party circles, even an AK Party’s Gaziantep MP Ahmet Uzer distributed Oktar’s 800 pages Creationist book to member of parli[a]ments… Moreover AK Party officals decided that Adnan Oktar books will be purchased by all public libraries in Turkey. Currently legendary even poet Nazim Hikmet’s book are banned in public libraries in Turkey.”

Perhaps it’s fair to conclude that the AK Parti supports the freedom of speech, as long as it’s not used in opposition to its own beliefs. This spells disaster and should cause many secularist Turks to worry about the direction their country is headed under AK Parti rule. It’s time for true democrats and liberals to stand up and to condemn Oktar and his merry bunch. If Turkey is serious about the freedom of speech and about democracy, its time of its leaders to resist temptations from its followers to silence critics.

For more about the bonds between Oktar and the AK Parti here are some sources (with thanks to AKP Watch):
- Hürriyet
- Hürriyet
- Hürriyet
- Radikal
- Radikal
- Sabah
- Gazete Vatan

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